Cambodia's forum for business and government dialogue received a glowing endorsement
in an independent evaluation released last month.
The results of the study commissioned by the International Finance Corporation (IFC)
- part of the World Bank Group - and AusAid showed that the Cambodia Government-Private
Sector Forum (GPSF) had made an important contribution to the development of private
enterprise in the Kingdom.
The GPSF was launched in 1999 as a space for consultation between the public and
private sectors on economic issues ranging from policy to day-to-day pragmatics.
The Cambodian business community raises issues with the government through regular
meetings and biannual Working Groups that are chaired by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Charles Schneider, an IFC program manager, said the GPSF had proved invaluable in
creating channels of communication between the private sector and government to improve
the business environment and accelerate economic growth.
"These didn't exist before, and the Forum has also helped launch, and continues
to facilitate, the valuable work of the working groups," he said.
The study assessed the impact of the Forum and confirmed the GPSF had been effective
in opening communication between business and the government and contributing towards
reform. More than 40 percent of the issues raised by the Forum were also identified
by the World Bank is being key areas of reform. According to the evaluation report,
the Forum was integral in streamlining the import and export procedures at Sihanoukville
Port; reducing the cost of transit road tolls, as well as the simplification of cumbersome
licensing requirements and the postponement of an accommodation tax until the tourism
industry has found firmer footing.
The evaluation concluded that reforms brought about through the GPSF had led to some
$70 million of savings in the private sector over the past five years.
James Brew, an IFC project manager, said the evaluation credited the Forum with not
only raising important issues and helping to resolve them but also with increasing
"It is important to recognize that Forum achievements are both due to the will
of government to deliver outcomes and to the dedication of the private sector to
raise issues and volunteer their time and expertise to seek solutions," he said.
"We operate in a challenging political environment and for the Forum to work
requires a lot of political will and the Prime Minister has demonstrated that will."
Benjamin Herzberg, an IFC private sector development specialist, said over the past
five years the Forum had grown from a fledgling institution to a body capable of
creating real and lasting reform in Cambodia's business and investment climate.
"In the beginning we worked with individual entrepreneurs but now we work with
associations," he said. "This is the voice of the private sector in Cambodia
and a way to create dialogue between the private sector and government. The new heroes
of the country are the small entrepreneurs and through this Forum they have a voice
and can make a real impact on development."